28 May 2015

Forever Goodbye

Originally written 29 March 2015.
I share this mostly for the final paragraph (as written on 29 March). This has had a profound impression on me since this performance, particularly in the wake of the sudden death of my young cousin one month ago today.

I stand on the edge of the rest of my life. I graduate college in less than a month. The last musical theatre performance is done. The final dance show is this Saturday. Tonight was the last choir concert.

It wasn't real. Usually at these things, I'm in the moment, trying to soak up every second so I can remember these times as vividly as possible later when I miss them. And I've been looking forward to performing in that church again for a full year. But tonight it didn't feel real. I've just gotten back from a performance, but instead of being hyper and telling my roommate about all the stupid insignificant hilarious backstage shenanigans that only performers find funny, I'm sitting here trying not to cry.

Performing is really just a series of goodbyes. I was Mary Lennox for two months and then, right at the culmination of all that thought and work and love put into her -- it was over. She disappeared from my life. How many Christmas productions and choir concerts have I been in that we worked on for months... and then they were over in a weekend? How many dance shows have I spent months honing only to give one three-minute performance and then it's gone? I have all these little parts, these roles that I love and cherish dearly and they become a part of me... but then I have to say goodbye. And to go back to it again and again and again just draws out the pain of goodbyes... Today our choir director seemed off and finally he told us he had just found out less than half an hour before that a good friend of his halfway across the country had passed away.

I was surprised how much that weighed on my heart. Having lost two people close to me in as many months perhaps made me more sympathetic. But for the entire evening it was all I could do not to cry. It's hard to describe -- it's like I felt his pain in my own heart. I carried it with me. Most people probably went, "Oh wow. That really sucks. I'm sorry," but I spent the entire concert watching him, noting how even the ever-present smile trembled though it never faltered. I watch people when I'm worried about them or when I know they're dealing with some hard stuff. I literally sit and watch everything they do with their hands, their body language, their facial expressions. I don't know why. It's just what I do.

Part of me was impressed with the smile. It never faltered. He never changed the way he spoke to us -- his voice stayed pleasant and calm and there was a smile behind it, like there always is. He's the conductor, his back was to the audience. But still he smiled -- at us. And I was aware how I, the performer, facing the crowd, could not summon up a smile from within myself for love or money. How does a man lose a dear friend and carry on with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face? It wasn't plastered on. There was effort in it, but it wasn't a total mask. Somehow there was something in him still giving him the courage and ability to smile and speak kindly to us.

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